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Don't Obstruct Another's Faith

1 Corinthians 8:9-13
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling-block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol's temple, won't that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. (NIVUK)

Everybody in Corinth was used to worshipping at the pagan temples. It was part of their normal social life. But Paul taught that there is only one God and all the idols had no personality or power (1 Corinthians 8:4). However, old habits are hard to shift, particularly if family or friends were still sacrificing to the idols. A big moral question arose: was it right or wrong to eat meat which had been offered to the idols? Paul was clear that the association of the meat with idol worship did not alter the meat in any way, and it had no spiritual power (1 Corinthians 8:8).
 
However, for those who still thought that such food was either spiritually good or spiritually bad, the behaviour of the more mature Christians did have a spiritual influence on them (1 Corinthians 8:7). The local restaurants were often in the pagan temples and were used for social and business meetings. If new believers, who did not understand what Paul had taught, saw another believer eating at a temple bistro their confusion might lead them to indulging in idol worship again.
 
So Paul writes, "Be careful!" Wounding another believer's conscience is like wounding Christ Himself. Causing a brother or sister to sin, is sinful in itself. The Apostle advised that all the believers needed to think carefully about the possible impact of their behaviour on other members of the church, and those yet to be saved (1 Corinthians 10:32). If necessary, they should refrain from activities which could compromise gospel integrity, even though it would restrict their legitimate personal choices.
 
Human beings are not designed to live in isolation. We need each other in order to thrive. But also we are always at risk from one another. Having come to Christ our objectives should be His; the building up of His Body (Romans 15:2). So if we obstruct other believers in becoming full-hearted worshippers and disciples, we sin against Him. This means that we must not simply pursue our own family, business or even 'spiritual' agendas without considering others. Will our words or actions lead them into truth and closer to Christ, or distract them back into old ways and away from the Lord? If we truly love Him and them, it will matter to us, and we will be willing to sacrifice our freedoms for His sake.

Prayer 
Loving God. Thank You that Jesus was willing to restrict His divine privileges so that I may be included into Your kingdom. Forgive me when I am careless, heartless and sinful in ignoring the sensitive consciences of other believers in order to pursue my ambitions. Please help me to think carefully about the impact of my words and lifestyle on Your other children; help me to be willing to sacrifice my liberties so that they will be built up in Your love. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams

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